Dreams, Materialized

Photograph by Adam Krauth

Photograph by Adam Krauth

David Chum was broke. Despite spending months sewing in his Arlington studio — and waiting tables — the 28-year-old designer was faced with halting production of his line, Selahdor, after just three seasons. Having invested thousands of his own dollars in producing and showing his autumn/winter 2010 collection, the coffers were bare.

[sidebar]“It was hard to explain to people, ‘Hey, I don’t have any money! That’s why there’s nothing new coming out,’” Chum recalls. “I felt defeated, depressed.”

But no one took the news harder than Joseph Gordon Cleveland and Brigid Nastasia, Chum’s representative team and cofounders of Contra, a brand consulting and creative services agency. So they decided to do something about it.

“There were several designers in town we recognized as being incredibly talented and not possessing financial resources,” Cleveland says. “Unlike New York City, where there are fashion incubators on every block, there wasn’t a mechanism like that in Boston. We wanted to support that talent in a more comprehensive way.”

Together, Cleveland and Nastasia developed the Emerging Designer Fund, an endowment that provides financial and business development resources to Boston-based designers.

The Liberty Hotel, a frequent venue for the city’s fashion events, signed on as EDF’s title sponsor. “We’re a lifestyle brand, and I think it’s important that we reflect the people who traffic our brand,” says Rachel Moniz, the hotel’s general manager. “I think the potential with [the fund] is unlimited.”

Chum was announced as the fund’s first recipient in March. At the program launch, he unveiled his autumn 2011 collection — a mixture of texturally rich fabrics such as raw silks and wools, muted hues, and tailored silhouettes.

Chum has now been able to refocus his energy on designing rather than simply surviving. “It’s been very freeing,” he says. “Now I have time to work out my ideas and really get into the creative process.”